How to Mount a Solar Panel to a Car Roof

How to Mount a Solar Panel to a Car Roof.

It may seem pretty straight forward how to mount a solar panel to a car roof, but do you know how to safely and successfully attach your solar panel to the cab or canopy of your car? We have put together a step by step guide to ensure a safe and quick mounting process letting you know exactly what and what not to do.

STEP 1: Determine Size of Solar Panel.

Before you even begin to think about how to mount a solar panel to a car roof, you need to think about what size solar panel you want and where you want to mount it. A vast majority of solar panels on the market are not designed specifically for vehicle mounting and don’t have strengthened frames or thicker glass to cope with the rigours of the Australian 4×4 and touring conditions. So finding a panel manufacturer/supplier that caters for this is paramount. This will ensure you have a panel that can travel and last the distance. Goal Zero produces the Boulder 90 solar panel which has been specifically designed for vehicle mounting applications.

DIMENSIONS MUST FIT CAR

Solar panel dimensions chosen to fit the dimensions of the vehicle.

STEP 2: Use Appropriate Tools And Equipment.

Once you’ve decided on the size and placement of your solar panel, you need to ensure you have the correct tools and equipment to mount it. It is important to use approved vehicle mounting accessories such as roof racks or tray systems to ensure that you are mounting safely and securely. There are a number of suppliers in Australia such as Rhino Rack, Yakima and Pro Rack which provide appropriate accessories. Some solar panel manufacturers have also designed mounting brackets that work in conjunction with their solar panel products, so you won’t be limited for options when you mount a solar panel to your car roof.

A Rhino Rack roof rack with a mounted solar panel.

STEP 3: Determine Placement.

When mounting a solar panel to a car roof, the panel should be mounted on either the cab or on the canopy but NEVER between the two. The reason for this is that the cab and canopy twist independently on the chassis and will place unnecessary force on the solar panel, more than likely resulting in permanent damage. Another thing to consider is whether you want the solar panel to the rear or to one side? Do you want to allow for long items to still be placed on your roof rack or below the line? Or do you want longer items over the top of your solar panel without pressuring it? These are measures to take into account when mounting.

WHAT NOT TO DO

An example of  how NOT to mount a solar panel to a car roof. The placement should never overlap the cab AND the canopy as it can cause unnecessary strain on the panel and potentially lead to permanent damage.

STEP 4: Physically Mounting the Panel

Finally, to mounting the panel. Once the roof racks are installed the mounting of the solar panel can be done with basic hand tools. Unlike other solar panels the Boulder 90, along with the Hinge Base Set Mounts, makes it incredibly easy with the ability to locate mounts anywhere around the panel to line up with Roof Racks or the tracks on a tray style system. The mounts are secured to both the roof rack system and the panel using a socket set and (maybe) an allen key, no need to drill at all.

Rhino Rack with a Solar Panel mounted.

STEP 5: Routing Cable In Whatever System That May Be.

This brings us to our final step.With goal zero solar panels, connecting our panels to the battery/Yeti is super-fast and easy, the boulder 90 utilises the industry standard solar mc4 connectors and included in the box is a high quality MC4 to 8mm adapter for connection to the Yeti battery packs.

The solar panel wire will need to be secured to the roof rack,  you might like to use double sided tape to keep it in place, and then routed securely to where you have your battery installed, this may be in the car or in the rear of the vehicle, securing the cable is important as cables and connectors that are flexing or moving can weaken over time. And, as the Yeti rechargers includes the solar regulator, no tools or screws are required to get your system connected and charging, just plug n play.

Hot tip: Keep things neat and tidy with double sided velcro.

Cables and wiring is the most important component of your solar and battery system, you can have the largest battery and solar panel system, however with poor / undersized wiring or bad connections, you will be left with a warm fridge and a dead battery.

You’ll also want to keep in mind, as electricity (charge) moves through a wire, it loses power which we call, voltage drop, the ideal wire size is to have no power loss at the end near the battery or Yeti, to achieve this we need a thicker wire, but not too thick as large wire are expensive, heavy and difficult to connect and attach to our system.

 

 

 

 

 

If you have any further questions regarding your solar requirements, or understanding your volts, amps and watts, please call us on 07 3245 6190 or via our contact form to get in touch with our tech team. If you’re looking to buy a Goal Zero Solar Panel, you can find your local retailer here.

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